Remembering Discarded Doctrine
Lectures on the Doctrine of Jesus Christ
(also known as Lectures of Faith)
(also known as Lectures of Faith)
What is the name of the lectures?
What is commonly referred to today as “Lectures on Faith” was originally called lectures “on the doctrine of the church of the Latter Day Saints. Of Faith.”
Why are the lectures considered doctrine?
Joseph Smith called the Lectures "doctrine" - important doctrine. "Leading items of the religion." He declared he would answer to every principle advanced in their content (see preface, 1835 Doctrine & Covenants).
In the opening paragraph of the first lecture, it reads, "Faith being the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness, necessarily claims the first place in a course of lectures which are designed to unfold to the understanding the doctrine of Jesus Christ." Notice that the purpose of faith is to unfold to the understanding the doctrine of Jesus Christ.
These lectures could rightly be called Lectures on the Doctrine of Christ. This doctrine is to teach you and bring you back into the presence of Jesus Christ:
"Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ; and there will be no more doctrine given until after he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh. And when he shall manifest himself unto you in the flesh the things which he shall say unto you shall ye observe to do." (2 Nephi 14, Book of Mormon Historic Edition, p.119)
Lecture Seventh closes with:
"These sayings put together, show the Apostle's views, most clearly, so as to admit of no mistake on the mind of any individual. He says that all things that pertain to life and godliness were given unto them through the knowledge of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. And if the question is asked, how were they to obtain the knowledge of God? (for there is a great difference between believing in God and knowing him: knowledge implies more than faith. And notice, that all things that pertain to life and godliness, were given through knowledge of God;) the answer is given, through faith they were to obtain this knowledge; and having power by faith to obtain the knowledge of God, they could with it obtain all other things which pertain to life and godliness.
"By these sayings of the Apostle we learn, that it was by obtaining a knowledge of God, that men got all things which pertain to life and godliness; and this knowledge was the effect of faith. So that all things which pertain to life and godliness are the effects of faith.
"From this we may extend as far as any circumstances may require whether on earth or in heaven, and we will find it the testimony of all inspired men, or heavenly messengers, that all things that pertain to life and godliness are the effects of faith and nothing else: all learning, wisdom, and prudence fail, and every thing else as a means of salvation but faith. This is the reason that the fishermen of Galilee could teach the world-because they sought by faith and by faith obtained. And this is the reason that Paul counted all things but filth and dross-what he formerly called his gain he called his loss; yea, and he counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord. Philippians 3:7, 8, 9 & 10. Because, to obtain the faith by which he could enjoy the knowledge of Christ Jesus the Lord, he had to suffer the loss of all things: this is the reason that the Former Day Saints knew more, and understood more of heaven, and of heavenly things than all others beside, because this information is the effect of faith-to be obtained by no other means. And this is the reason, that men, as soon as they lose their faith, run into strifes, contentions, darkness and difficulties; for the knowledge which tends to life disappears with faith, but returns when faith returns; for when faith comes, it brings its train of attendants with it-apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, gifts, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, &c. All these appear when faith appears on the earth, and disappear when it disappears from the earth. For these are the effects of faith and always have, and always will attend it. For where faith is, there will the knowledge of God be also, with all things which pertain thereto-revelations, visions, and dreams, as well as every other necessary thing in order that the possessors of faith may be perfected and obtain salvation; for God must change, otherwise faith will prevail with him. And he who possesses it will, through it, obtain all necessary knowledge and wisdom, until he shall know God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has sent: whom to know is eternal life: Amen."
Why did Joseph Smith prepare these lectures?
"Joseph was president of the church he founded for fourteen years. In that time only a few church members experienced the presence of spiritual gifts like those reported in the New Testament. Joseph acquired them for himself, but he did not seem able to help others attain them...
"The entire Christian world shares this failure to develop sign-producing faith. When he was confronted by this failure in the people who believed he was a prophet, Joseph made the attempt to rouse others to have this faith.
"The problem of weak faith was fully exposed to view by a crisis in 1831. Joseph attempted for several years to secure and convey heavenly priesthood for his followers. The quest for this priesthood began three years earlier as he was working on the Book of Mormon translation” (Denver Snuffer, A Man Without Doubt, p.13).
"Joseph wanted power in the priesthood so Zion could be established in a New Jerusalem on earth. This was the priesthood Enoch used to move mountains and control rivers. As the revised version of Genesis reported, Melchizedek and 'every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course; To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world.' This authority was necessary for Zion to be protected from destruction by the world.
"In the June 1831 conference, Joseph Smith ordained five, and Lyman Wight ordained eighteen, for the total of twenty-three. For a moment they rejoiced. The heavenly priesthood returned! But the results that followed were anything but satisfactory. The authority did not “take” and the power did not come. Most of the men involved fell away and rejected Joseph shortly after their ordination. The more receptive of the men were left confused. The great blessing Joseph had waited years to receive turned into the first great crisis Joseph would confront" (ibid, p.21).
“In this first, great crisis, Joseph Smith's response reveals more about him than all that happened before in his life. He composed a series of lectures designed to teach others how to have faith. These lectures were delivered first orally, and later published. When printed in 1835 as part of a volume of new scripture titled Doctrine and Covenants, Joseph edited the lectures and vouched for them as true doctrine" (ibid, p.33).
What is the purpose of the lectures?
It was not enough for Joseph to lay hands upon someone and give them authority, he knew they must learn to work by faith just as our Lord and Savior and every other saved being. Joseph desired to teach the people how to faith like Enoch and his people. From Lecture Seventh:
"These teachings of the Savior most clearly show unto us the nature of salvation; and what he proposed unto the human family when he proposed to save them-That he proposed to make them like unto himself; and he was like the Father, the great prototype of all saved beings: And for any portion of the human family to be assimilated into their likeness is to be saved; and to be unlike them is to be destroyed: and on this hinge turns the door of salvation.
"Who cannot see, then, that salvation is the effect of faith? for as we have previously observed, all the heavenly beings work by this principle; and it is because they are able so to do that they are saved: for nothing but this could save them. And this is the lesson which the God of heaven, by the mouth of all his holy prophets, has been endeavoring to teach to the world. Hence we are told, that without faith it is impossible to please God; and that the salvation is of faith, that it might be by grace to the end, the promise might be sure to all the seed. Romans 4:16. -And that Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law; for they stumbled at that stumbling stone. Romans 9:32. And Jesus said unto the man who brought his son to him, to get the devil who tormented him, cast out, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. Mark, 9:23. These with a multitude of other scriptures, which might be quoted, plainly set forth the light, in which the Savior, as well as the Former Day Saints, viewed the plan of salvation.- That it was a system of faith-it begins with faith, and continues by faith; and every blessing which is obtained, in relation to it, is the effect of faith, whether it pertains to this life or that which is to come.- To this, all the revelations of God bear witness. If there were children of promise, they were the effects of faith: not even the Savior of the world excepted: Blessed is she that believed, said Elizabeth to Mary, when she went to visit her;-for there shall be a performance of the things which were told her of the Lord; Luke, 1:45: Nor was the birth of John the baptist the less a matter of faith; for in order that his father Zacharias might believe he was struck dumb. And through the whole history of the scheme of life and salvation, it is a matter of faith: every man received according to his faith: according as his faith was, so were his blessings and privileges; and nothing was withheld from him when his faith was sufficient to receive it. He could stop the mouths of lions, quench the violence of fire, escape the edge of the sword, wax valiant in fight, and put to flight the armies of the aliens; women could, by their faith, receive the dead children to life again: in a word, there was nothing impossible with them who had faith. All things were in subjection to the Former Day Saints, according as their faith was-By their faith they could obtain heavenly visions, the ministering of angels, have knowledge of the spirits of just men made perfect, of the general assembly and church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven, of God the judge of all, of Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and become familiar with the third heavens, see and hear things which were not only unutterable, but were unlawful to utter. Peter, in view of the power of faith, 2nd epistle, 1:1, 2 and 3 says, to the Former Day Saints: grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us unto glory and virtue. In the first epistle, 1:3, 4 and 5 he says, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time."
What is taught in the seven lectures?
In presenting the subject of faith, Joseph teaches:
First, Faith itself-what it is (Lecture 1st)
Secondly, The object on which it rests (Lectures 2nd-6th)
Thirdly, The effects which flow from it (Lecture 7th)
Lectures on the Doctrine of Christ include:
Lecture First - What Faith Is
Lecture Second - The Object On Which Faith Rests
Lecture Third - The Character of God
Lecture Fourth - The Perfections and Attributes of God
Lecture Fifth - The Godhead
Lecture Sixth - Knowledge the Course of Life Pursued is According to the Will of God
Lecture Seventh - The Effects of Faith
What is the doctrine in the Doctrine & Covenants?
The original Doctrine & Covenants was divided into two sections. The seven lectures was the first section, which included the doctrine, and the other revelations was the second section, which included the covenants and commandments of the Lord. From the title pages from each section of the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants:
On the doctrine of the church of the
Latter Day Saints.
. . .
COVENANTS AND COMMANDMENTS
OF THE LORD,
to his servants of the church of the
latter day saints.
What was Joseph Smith's role in preparing and delivering the lectures?
Transcript of audio:
..."If you've never read the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, it is as audacious a scriptural document as anyone has ever seen. It is like a thunderbolt out of the blue. It is an amazing text. It begins - the first 70 some pages - with The Lectures on Faith. Then the revelations are organized, not in the ways that they are presently organized in our Doctrine and Covenants, they are organized topically and thematically.
"When you pick up the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants and you look at that document, to me it was abundantly clear that there is something new taking place on the earth. The Prophet Joseph Smith was what he said he was. And in fact, if anything, he understated who and what he was. The Prophet Joseph Smith was an agent, sent by God, to restore lost knowledge for whoever is willing to receive it. The form that it takes in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants is a religious classic. It is a greater document than the New Testament. It is an amazing piece of work.
"Before its publication, Joseph Smith, Assistant President of the Church, Oliver Cowdery, First Counselor in the First Presidency, Sidney Rigdon, and Second Counselor in the First Presidency, Frederick G. Williams, jointly signed a preface written by Joseph Smith. In his journals, leading up to the publication of The Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith recorded that he spent days editing the Lectures that had been given before their publication as scripture.
"Since they've been removed from the scriptures, there are a lot of people who are trying to vindicate the decision that was made to remove them from scripture. One of the arguments that is made in furtherance of removing them from scripture was that it was primarily a product of Sidney Rigdon's pen. It was primarily of product of Sidney Rigdon' pen. They've done word typing and computer analysis, and they've come up with probability of authorship. It doesn't matter if Sidney Rigdon had a hand in the document, because Joseph Smith edited it. And Joseph Smith corrected it. And Joseph Smith vouched for it. In the preface to The Lectures on Faith in the 1835 edition, (which you can read in the Joseph Smith Papers, Volume 2 of the Revelations and Translations beginning on page 311 of that volume), you can read the preface (on page 313). And I'm reading you this over Joseph Smith's name. "We deem it to be unnecessary to entertain you with lengthy preface to the following volume, but merely to say that it contains in short the leading items of the religion which we have professed to believe. The first part of the book will be found to contain a series of lectures as delivered before a theological class in this place. And in consequence of their embracing the important doctrines of salvation, we have arranged them into the following work. We do not present this little volume with any other expectation than that. We are to be called the answer to every principle advanced." [This is Joseph Smith saying, this is a document that I intend to vouch for. In his official history, January 1835 he says: "During the month of January, I was engaged in the school of the elders and in preparing the lectures on theology for publication in the book of Doctrine and Covenants."]
"You find that in the History of the Church Volume 2 beginning at page 180. He defended every principle that was advanced. It was brought before a Council of the Church. And I'm reading from the Joseph Smith papers. This is on page 307 of Volume 2 of the Revelations and Translations. "On 17 August 1835, a general assembly of the church met for the purpose of examining a book of Commandments and Covenants that had been compiled and written by the publications committee. (Joseph Smith headed the publications committee.) This committee having finished the said book according to the instructions given them, (the minutes read) it was deemed necessary to call the General Assembly of the Church to see if the book be approved or not by the authorities of the Church. That it may, if approved, become a law of the church, and a rule of faith and practice of the same."
"Though the assembly was convened by the Presidency of the Church, several of them were absent at the time of the vote. So the responsibility of presenting the book to the conference fell to Oliver Cowdery, a member of both the presidency and the four man publication committee and Assistant President of the Church at the moment that this took place. Sidney Rigdon, the other presidency member and committee member, stood and explained the matter by which they intended to obtain the voice of the assembly for or against said book. Voting on the book proceeded by quorums and groups with the leader of each group bearing witness of the truth of the volume before his group voted. And then they proceeded to vote. And they voted by quorums from the least to the greatest. Then after all the quorums of the church had accepted the Doctrine and Covenants, the first 70 some pages of which were The Lectures on Faith, the General Assembly voted, including everyone who was present. Children, women, everyone voted. They all sustained this as the Doctrine of the Church.
"In 1921 The Lectures on Faith were dropped from the scriptures by a committee comprised of George F. Richards, Anthony W. Ivins, Melvin J. Ballard, James E. Talmage, John A. Widstoe, and Joseph Fielding Smith. That committee dropped The Lectures on Faith from the scriptures because, "Certain lessons entitled The Lectures on Faith which were bound with Doctrine and Covenants in some of its former issues, are not included in this edition. Those lessons were prepared for use in the School of Elders. But they were never presented or accepted by the Church as other than theological lessons or lectures."
"That's a lie. The Joseph Smith Papers, if you will read them today, tell you that statement is not at all the truth. Part of what I hope to get to tonight, and if not tonight then in Logan, are the reasons why. Joseph Smith called this "doctrine" - important doctrine. "Leading items of the religion." And that he would answer to every principle that was advanced in the document. Now to his credit, Joseph Fielding Smith, who was on that committee said in 1966: "I suppose that the rising generation knows little about the Lectures. In my own judgment these Lectures are of great value and should be studied. I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ." And in a talk given by Elder Bruce R. McConkie at Brigham Young University, (the son-in-law to the one of the committee members, whose words I just read), in January 24, 1972, Brother McConkie said: "In my judgment it is the most comprehensive, intelligent, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying of what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the Spirit of Inspiration. It is in effect, eternal scripture. It is true."
"And yet it's not in our scriptures. The School the Prophets was organized based upon a commandment. Doctrine and Covenants 88:127, "And again, the order of the house prepared for the presidency of the school of the prophets, established for their instruction in all things that are expedient for them, even for all the officers of the church, or in other words, those who are called to the ministry in the church, beginning at the high priests, even down to the deacons..."
"This is referring to the School the Prophets. This was the forum established by revelation, in which The Lectures on Faith were developed. And after having been delivered there, edited by Joseph, prepared for publication, it became scripture. It was approved in a subsequent revelation. If you turn a few pages to D&C 97:3-6, "Behold, I say unto you, concerning the school in Zion, I, the Lord, am well pleased that there should be a school in Zion, and also with my servant Parley P. Pratt, for he abideth in me. And inasmuch as he continueth to abide in me he shall continue to preside over the school in the land of Zion until I shall give unto him other commandments. And I will bless him with a multiplicity of blessings, in expounding all scriptures and mysteries to the edification of the school, and of the church in Zion. And to the residue of the school, I, the Lord, am willing to show mercy; nevertheless, there are those that must needs be chastened, and their works shall be made known."
"The school, the school, the school! They wanted one established. And the purpose of that was to bring the Lectures in. The purpose of the Lectures was to teach people so that you would understand what the doctrines are. The doctrine was The Lectures on Faith. The covenants were the balance of the book.
"By the way, if you get out the 1835 edition, you will find that the typeface for The Lectures on Faith was actually larger type than the subsequent commandments which are in the revelations that we have left over in the Doctrine and Covenants. They were first; they were vouched for by Joseph. They were the "leading items." He considered them so important that they came first in the in the book, the first 74 pages of the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants" (Denver Snuffer, 40 Years in Mormonism Lecture 2: Faith, September 28, 2013, Idaho Falls, Idaho, pp.6-8).
Why was the doctrine removed from the Doctrine & Covenants?
Transcript of audio:
"Well, the committee in 1921 concluded that this lecture was wrong about God the Father because he says he was a personage of spirit, glory and power. And the Son was a personage of tabernacle. They believe that the personage of the Father is a personage of tabernacle as well. That was the first mistake they thought that Joseph Smith, who vouched for the doctrine in these lectures, who stood in the presence of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, had made. At least in the estimation of this committee - who had not stood in God's presence. Because Joseph erred in doctrine they believed. And they thought they had "keys" that allowed them to change anything, including doctrine. Their "keys" were wholly derived from Joseph, and yet somehow made them superior to Joseph. If you think about that for just a moment you see the foolishness of such a proposition. They concluded that Joseph Smith was wrong about his description of the Holy Spirit. And that the Holy Spirit is not merely one of the Godhead comprised by the mind of the Father and the Son, but was an individual, a personage in its own right. I suppose the Christians are right in one sense. Having an anthropomorphic God in the Father and Son, our committee wanted to do the same with the Holy Spirit.
"It is clear there is a disagreement between Joseph Smith and this committee. Therefore, either Joseph Smith had an incorrect idea of God's character, perfections and attributes, or alternatively George F. Richards, Anthony W. Ivins, Melvin J. Ballard, James E. Talmage, John A. Widstoe, and Joseph Fielding Smith had an incorrect idea of God's character, and perfections and attributes because they disagree on this Lecture. The one saying these ideas are so vile and so error ridden that it must be taken out of the scriptures, and the other saying this is a true statement of our doctrine, and therefore, needs to be in our scriptures.
"Consequently and correspondingly, either Joseph Smith did not, indeed could not, have faith. Or alternatively George F. Richards, Anthony W. Ivins, Melvin J. Ballard, James E. Talmage, John A. Widstoe, and Joseph Fielding Smith did not, indeed could not, have faith. One or the other is true because they disagree on the definition of God. And you must have a correct idea of His character, perfection and attributes in order to exercise faith in Him. And so now we find ourselves having to choose. It's a healthy thing. You ought to have to choose. You ought to have your salvation at peril on how you choose. You ought to have to decide between whether you believe a man who stood in the presence of God, and bore testimony of what he saw, and what he felt, and what he heard, and others who constitute a committee that disagree with him. You should have to choose. And your eternal peril should hang in the balance as you make that choice. That is a perfect conundrum, in my view. Grow up. Accept the burden. Find out. Learn about God. Or be damned by your carelessness, by your indifference, by your refusal to go forward. It ought to be so. And it ought to be put to you plainly. And you ought to have to choose. And you ought to have to choose every time you hear someone get up and offer something to you and conclude in the name of Jesus Christ. Because they are either offering you something from Him that will save you, or they are offering something that they hope will damn you, because they're signing you up on the wrong team. It ought to be so. Everlastingly, it ought to be so" (Denver Snuffer, 40 Years in Mormonism Lecture 2: Faith, September 28, 2013, Idaho Falls, Idaho, pp.13-14).
What does it mean to be a witness of Jesus Christ?
The purpose of our faith in Jesus Christ is to lead us back into His presence so we too can speak with God face to face. This great blessing is being offered to all, for God is no respecter of persons. God has not revealed anything to the prophets but He will make known these things to you.
"This principle ought (in its proper place) to be taught, for God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye that Lord; for all shall know Him (who remain) from the least to the greatest. How is this to be done? It is to be done by this sealing power, and the other Comforter spoken of, which will be manifest by revelation" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 149).
It would please God if all men and women the Lord's people were prophets/prophetesses.
"And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:27-29)
"Answer to the question, Was the Priesthood of Melchizedek taken away when Moses died? All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.180).
"Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. Whenever salvation has been administered, it has been by testimony. Men of the present time testify of heaven and hell, and have never seen either; and I will say that no man knows these things without this" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.160).
". . . for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10)
"And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet. And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God. But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known." (Mosiah 5, Book of Mormon Historic Edition, p.169)
"Wherefore, we again say, search the revelations of God; study the prophecies, and rejoice that God grants unto the world Seers and Prophets. They are they who saw the mysteries of godliness; they saw the flood before it came; they saw angels ascending and descending upon a ladder that reached from earth to heaven; they saw the stone cut out of the mountain, which filled the whole earth; they saw the Son of God come from the regions of bliss and dwell with men on earth; they saw the deliverer come out of Zion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob; they saw the glory of the Lord when he showed the transfiguration of the earth on the mount; they saw every mountain laid low and every valley exalted when the Lord was taking vengeance upon the wicked; they saw truth spring out of the earth, and righteousness look down from heaven in the last days, before the Lord came the second time to gather his elect; they saw the end of wickedness on earth, and the Sabbath of creation crowned with peace; they saw the end of the glorious thousand years, when Satan was loosed for a little season; they saw the day of judgment when all men received according to their works, and they saw the heaven and the earth flee away to make room for the city of God, when the righteous receive an inheritance in eternity. And, fellow sojourners upon earth, it is your privilege to purify yourselves and come up to the same glory, and see for yourselves, and know for yourselves. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.12).
What does modern-day witness of Jesus Christ have to say about the Lectures on Faith?
A series of 10 talks was given from September 2013 to September 2014 on the general topic of Zion. The 2nd talk focused specifically on the topic of faith and discussed much of the history and content of the Lectures of Faith:
See also Chapters 1 and 2 of the book Preserving the Restoration, which are based on the lecture referenced above.
Additionally, you can listen to a compilation of remarks about faith below: